Yoga. The word itself carries more meaning than physical poses and breathing techniques. Yoga practice, while unique to everyone, is centered around inner peace and self actualization, a present state of mind, and grounding yourself even in the most trying times of your life. We chatted with nine individuals to discover how finding yoga delivered them from struggle, improved both their physical and mental wellbeing, and how their practice has shaped their journey to bring them where they are today.
Edward Vilga, Best Selling Author & Yoga/Creative Guru
While yoga had been a part of my life since junior high, it was really during a life crisis in my 30s where I “got it.” When the failure of a career-defining business project and the unexpected end of a serious relationship dovetailed, I felt myself adrift. Wandering into a yoga class almost by accident, I found so much more than an alternative fitness modality. Instead, it became my pathway towards Transformation and turning my life around.
Inspired by one particularly gifted and charismatic teacher, I was hooked on the experience: how good I felt during and afterwards, the grounding and focus it gave me, and the practical infusion of philosophy into my day-to-day life. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I was practicing meditation and falling out of (but eventually mastering) difficult poses. Yoga met me exactly where I was and then allowed me a path towards a much richer and infinitely happier life.
Meridith Hankenson, Founder of The Acts Agency
On February 19th, 2016 my daughter Schuyler Arakawa was struck by a boulder while traveling in Colombia, South America. Doctors were skeptical whether she would survive. I began sharing her story and uplifting updates on our Facebook page. Before we knew it we had more than 6600 likes and followers— many of whom did not know me or Schuyler. One of those to reach out was Love Your Brain Foundation, started by former Olympian Snowboarder Kevin Pearce. He had also had a BTI and found that yoga accelerated his recovery.
In July when Schuyler and I returned to Tampa, we began studying yoga with Victoria Hawkins who eventually became certified in the Love Your Brain TBI technique. Schuyler still cannot stand on her own— although we have no doubt but that she will. Her therapists at Tampa General have remarked about how much the yoga has helped Schuy, and it has also helped me as her full-time caregiver.
Candace Moore, Author & Yoga Instructor
About five years ago, I came down with a mystery illness. I went from doctor to doctor and no one knew what was wrong with me. By the time I got a diagnosis eight months later, I could barely walk, couldn't lift my arms over my head, and the disease had begun affecting my brain to the point that I could hear what people were saying to me, and could see that they were speaking to me, but my brain was lagging on the computing time to understand what was being said to me.
I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and the medications cause a Herx reaction, which meant things got way worse before they got better. At one point, I was completely bed ridden, and I fell into a deep depression. One day, in the depths of my depression, I allowed myself to dream what I would do if I ever got better, and decided I would finally take that yoga teacher training I'd been wanting to take for years.
Fast forward five years later, and here I am. I have built a budding start up that centers around the modern yoga lifestyle. I teach yoga via luxury retreats worldwide, have created a quarterly discovery box program called Mantra Box, which highlights small businesses in the health and wellness industries, write a popular yoga blog that welcomes 1.7 million readers called YogaByCandace , and I lead a popular yoga YouTube channel that welcomes nearly 150,000 subscribers.
Cheryl Laughlin, Owner & Designer at Bits of Love Jewelry
Yoga is my go-to, kick-ass exercise no matter how blah I feel...probably because I started it an all-time low. I spent almost a decade putting the smackdown on my Lyme disease and needed to get back to my life, so one day I passed the local yoga studio and thought, today's that day. Yoga it is! Lots of soreness and fallen poses on my way to weekly namaste.
Now I bike, run or rollerblade to the studio and get ready to try any ridiculous pose the instructor tosses out there. Yoga makes me feel 12 again every time I do a headstand... it's bold, focused stretchy bendy at its best and I'd be lost without it.
Danielle James, Writer at dksjames.com & Podcaster on Minority Report
I started to practice Bikram Yoga after knee injuries prevented me from practicing Muay Thai, the sport I'd been practicing for 10+ years. While I started Bikram to get back into sports without putting added pressure on my knees, I found that I really gravitated to what my instructors called the open eyed meditation part of Bikram. Each session made me feel more present, calm, and at peace. Whenever I left, I glowed.
As a result, I now also practice Urban Zen, a practice in NYC's Yoga Shanti which also incorporates Reiki and aromatherapy. Practicing both forms of yoga not only got me back to boxing (regular boxing, without the use of knees), but also have grounded me more in the present time, and have allowed me to tune out distractions, and focus on the now. This is a challenging feat, especially given my loaded work and writing schedule, but it works.
Stephanie Sica, Founder of Orchard and Broome
Yoga has contributed in an immense way to reshaping and rebuilding my life after it had taken a 180 turn for the worse. Just about a year ago, absolutely everything in my life had changed: my boyfriend and I broke up, I had to move out of my apartment on account of the landlord wanting the space for a family member (what are the odds!?), I had clients end their contracts, I needed to restructure my company and let go of employees, I was in a weird place with some other relationships (friends/family)--all of this happened on the same day, believe it or not.
The result of all this was overwhelming sadness and anxiety, in part from the sheer emotional occurrences themselves, but also caused by a fear of the unknown (one of the 5 Kleshas in yogic philosophy). Being quite resilient in nature, I was extremely proactive in my recovery from all of this, and (long story short) signed up for a 200-hour yoga certification course. I had practiced yoga for years prior, but knew that the asana or posture/movement practice was only a small portion of the overall practice of yoga. Now, as I'm nearly complete with the certification, it's really the philosophy, the Yoga Sutras, that have transformed my perspective, shaped my character, centered my being, and made me feel limitless, so to speak. It's an incredibly challenging, yet freeing, internal practice.
David Rachford, davidrachford.com
At age 37, life kicked me in the teeth. In 9 months, I had a tri-fecta of hardships. I went through a divorce, my mother died, and an old military injury (ruptured discs in lumbar spine) recurred.
Through rehabilitation and physical therapy, yoga was recommended to me. I began a humble daily practice of asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques). Yoga also led me study and practice meditation. Over the course of 6-9 months, my physical pain went away, and I was able to quit using prescription narcotics (morphine). Despite the highly addictive nature of the narcotics, I had virtually no withdraw symptoms.
I also drastically cut back my use of alcohol, and through regular yoga & meditation practice, my stress levels in dealing with the loss of my mother became manageable. I believe that yoga helped me control the stress of tremendous loss and change in my life, which further allowed me to release 60 lbs of excess weight I was carrying. Stress can cause cortisol levels to increase; cortisol is the fight or flight hormone that tells the body to hold on to excess weight and store fat.
Since starting yoga practice over 8 years ago, I've since gone on to become a teacher of yoga and pranayama (breathing) to share these practices with others.
Bobbe White, Founder of Try Laughter! Inc.
I gave plantar fasciitis the boot with yoga. I tried injections, boot to wear at night and rigid orthotics in my shoes. Once I learned the pain stemmed from a tight heel cord, Down Dog took on a new life in my world. It was a medicinal gentle stretch and it was done frequently during yoga class.. I am 61 1/2 and have no plantar fasciitis pain. It's an automatic position one can assume out of class, too.
Harriet Levin Millan, Poet & Author at harrietlevinmillan.com
I couldn't eat or sleep. I was hoping for a publishing contract for the novel I'd taken five years to write—and publication wasn't even close to happening. My agent gave me the heartbreaking news that nineteen editors declined. Although I never promised publication to Michael, the South Sudanese refugee on whose life my novel was based, publication was our goal. I dreaded telling him.
I'd met with Michael two or three times a week to listen to his story. He had separated from his mother at the age of five when his village in South Sudan was attacked in the middle of the night. My novel, How Fast Can You Run, describes his 22-year quest to find her.
If not for my yoga practice, I'd have remained in a dark place, clasping my husband's hand, weeping over what I failure I'd become. Worse, I had been unable to find an audience for Michael's story, further convincing myself that he should have chosen a more worthy writer to entrust. Lacking the confidence to start a new novel, too exhausted to change into sneakers and follow my husband to the gym, a friend suggested yoga, which was about the only exercise I could handle barefoot with my vulnerability exposed.
In fact, unlike other exercises which demand energy, approaching yoga through my slothfulness and extreme self-doubt turned out to be a plus. Holding the postures unleashed so many emotions that my daily practice became my release. In the beginning I wept, but after the first week's sessions, I found myself laughing. Soon, I adopted the bring-your-feet-to-your-chest-and-give-yourself-a hug-for-coming-onto-the-mat-today attitude that my yoga teachers kept repeating.
In time, my mind and my body got stronger, leading me to break with my agent and send my novel out to a list of independent presses. The fifth one, Harvard Square Editions, accepted it. We are pleased to tell you... their acceptance letter began. I received it in an email on Thanksgiving Day with my extended family around me. The novel became a #1 Amazon bestseller in the biographical fiction category and Charter for Compassion chose it as a Global Read to take place worldwide on Feb 22. This summer, I'll be celebrating my fourth year of my daily yoga practice.
Every yogi’s journey is different, but each one reaps endless benefits. Yoga is a behavior, a mindset, a lifestyle. As an apparel brand, Apeiron aims to combine the yoga way of life with street style clothing for every individual. Explore life’s opportunities, express yourself, and Live Limitless.